The Shin Bet security agency has reportedly joined the investigation into a shocking quadruple homicide Tuesday evening in the northern town of Abu Snan, as a deadly crime surge in Arab communities continues to shatter records set over the past few years.
According to the Walla news site, the decision to involve the Shin Bet was made following a situational assessment meeting after four people, including a mayoral candidate, were gunned down in the Arab town.
The shooting came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again called to involve the internal security agency in combating violent crime in Arab towns, following the killing of Tira’s municipal director a day earlier.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, whose ministry oversees the police, published a post on his Facebook account on Wednesday morning calling Arab armed gangs “terrorist organizations” with “huge budgets and hundreds of thousands of weapons at their disposal, including millions of bullets, explosive charges, and grenade launchers.”
Ben Gvir warned that such “militias” will soon direct their attacks against the State of Israel, and called once again for the establishment of a national guard to prevent local crime. The police minister further claimed that months ago the police under his supervision requested the right to arrest six gang leaders and hold them without filing charges — a tool known as administrative detention that is frequently used by military authorities in the West Bank, but not inside Israel — but the request was denied by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara. Ben Gvir claimed that five of the six have were later involved in killings or attempted killings.
MK Tally Gotliv (Likud) also assailed Baharav-Miara on Wednesday for not allowing administrative detentions, declaring that “the blood of the victims is on her hands” and accusing her of interfering with the government’s work.
Tuesday’s killing took place in an olive grove outside the village of Abu Snan, in a difficult area to access, according to Channel 12. This fact has led investigators to speculate that the four may have been ambushed by someone they knew, or that they were followed.
One of the victims was named as Ghazi Sa’ab, who was running for mayor in the upcoming municipal elections and had announced the launch of his campaign only two hours prior to his death. The police do not rule out the possibility that the killing may have been carried out by criminal elements infiltrated inside the local government.
Sa’ab was a former IDF officer and Border Police officer, and in recent years operated a business in Abu Snan, the Haaretz daily reported.
The other fatalities were identified as his relatives Zohair al-Din Sa’ab and Amir Sa’ab, along with Salman Halabi of Yarca. All four victims belonged to the Druze minority.
Druze leaders announced a strike in community institutions on Wednesday in response to the killing, and blamed the police and government for the lack of security in the north. In a statement, the community placed the blame for the surging crime wave entirely on the Israel Police and the government, and appealed to the prime minister to take firm measures to end the carnage.
It was one of the deadliest acts of apparent criminal violence this year, coming two months after five people were killed in a mass shooting at a carwash in Yafa an-Naseriyye.
“Today, every citizen of the Arab community in Israel lives in terrible fear, heavy grief and deep anxiety. Each of those murdered is a complete world to their family and loved ones,” President Isaac Herzog said Tuesday evening. “This is an emergency that requires decisive measures by the state to eradicate crime and violence and prevent the further loss of life.”
The shooting was also the second to target a local Arab politician in as many days.
On Monday, Tira’s director general Abdel Rahman Kashua was killed in a shooting that Netanyahu said “crossed a red line.” Two other people were lightly to moderately wounded in the shooting, after which Interior Minister Moshe Arbel asked Netanyahu to convene an urgent meeting with the Shin Bet and have the security service get involved in the probe and in crimefighting more generally.
Kashua was the 11th murder victim in Tira in the past three years. Separately, a man in his 30s was shot dead on Monday in the northern town of Reineh.
“We will employ all means, including the Shin Bet and police, to defeat this criminality,” the prime minister said in a video statement in the wake of Kashua’s killing. “We will eliminate organized crime in Israel’s Arab society.”
“All Israeli citizens must live in safety and not under the shadow of the threat of domestic terror,” he added.
Netanyahu and Ben Gvir had previously pledged to employ the Shin Bet in the government’s crimefighting response but faced pushback from the agency and leaders of Arab communities. The Shin Bet is generally tasked with fighting domestic terrorism, including in the West Bank and Gaza, and threats to state institutions.
But as Kashua was a public official, the Shin Bet is involved in investigating his killing. The deputy commissioner of the Israel Police’s Central District Command, Avi Biton, said Monday the investigation was a top priority for the district “in light of the seriousness of the incident, in which a public official in a government institution was killed.”
Separately Tuesday, a man was shot and seriously wounded in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat. Paramedics took him to a hospital in Beersheba as police launched an investigation into the shooting.
And early Wednesday morning, a Palestinian man was stabbed to death in the southern town of Lakiya.
According to the Abraham Initiatives anti-violence advocacy group, 156 members of Israel’s Arab community have been killed since the start of the year, mostly in shootings. During the same time frame last year, 68 were killed.
The killings are part of a violent crime wave that has engulfed the Arab community in recent years. Many community leaders blame the police, whom they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence. They also point to decades of neglect and discrimination by government offices as the root cause of the problem.